The 13th Floor

Rebekah McKendry’s Destroying Media Theory: I Watch Horror Films Daily, but Faint at the Sight of Real Blood

I have witnessed some of the most extreme movies ever made. AUGUST UNDERGROUND, GUINEA PIG, MARTYRS-  I have seen them all. The gore never bothers me. Yet, after countless impalings, eviscerations and head burstings, if I lightly graze myself on a not-so-safe safety razor, my head will be spinning before the first drop of blood hits the floor. But this strange condition has led me to disprove several often touted misconceptions about horror movies because my brain is, in a weird way, a carnage litmus test.

Some seriously extreme stuff.
Some seriously extreme stuff.

I should mention that it’s only blood. Needles don’t bother me, nor splinters, bee stings, ticks, or any other bodily fears.  But a mishandled light bulb with some mild skin mincing, and I’m out cold. I didn’t always do this. I was a normal kid with bike accidents and bug bites and scabby knees. During my 12th grade year of high school, I was getting a blood test as part of the standard sports psychical my school required. While the nurse was drawing the blood, I glanced over at the tube and ……boom. I passed out, falling out of my chair and landing in an unconscious heap on the clinic floor. I recall very little except the nurse leering over me with smelling salts and telling one of the gym teachers to call 911. I was woozy and had a bad headache from hitting the ground, but otherwise I was ok. It was temporary, passing quickly. And for the longest time I figured that the fainting spell was from not eating breakfast before my blood-letting, not so much the sight of the blood.

Then a few months later, I was moving a dresser in my bedroom. The corner of the dresser had decorative metal edges which caught my skin tearing a huge gash in my leg. My mom heard the loud thump and found me passed out with my leg torn open. 17 stitches later, my leg was repaired, but my deep psyche was never the same. From then on, the sight of blood became my personal kryptonite.

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During a fainting spell years later in college, a nurse informed me the condition is actually known as “Vasovagal Syndrome”. I was half loopy at the time and heard it as “Vincent Vega Syndrome”. It stuck in my brain, and I still refer to my condition as the Pulp Fiction star inspired “Vincent Vega Syndrome”.

Vincent Vega Syndrome: Being calm, cool, and a really swell dancer, unless faced with blood.
Vincent Vega Syndrome: Being calm, cool, and a really swell dancer, unless faced with blood.

I now forewarn doctors and nurses ahead of time, with many taking great amusement in how it conflicts with my chosen horror-filled profession. I don’t even know why this happens. With minor injuries, like a nose bleed or small cuts, I know I’m not in eminent danger and not likely to die from the hit points. But the pattern is always the same. I get incredibly hot, flushed even, and then it happens. I’m like one of those crazy fainting goats. Here’s one now.

So why does this happen to me? A doctor once gave me a long science-filled answer about the nerves of the brain and chemical reactions. Cool- it’s science. Got it.

Can I ever change that? Nope, not likely. It just happens.

Then why does it happen when I get a hangnail, but not when I’m watching a movie where some guy is strapped to a chair having his knees sandblasted off by a masked killer? The brain is an amazing thing. When we watch movies, our brains realize that the visuals are in no way real. It is a completely different experience from seeing it live.

Clearly not real.
Clearly not real.

This fact, that I don’t pass out when watching horror movies, answers some of the biggest questions that are constantly raised by knee-jerk media reactions, conservative parent groups, and others declaring the evils of horror.

Can watching horror movies make you violent?

Does the subconscious brain think the graphic images in a horror movie and real life are the same thing?

And does an attraction to horror movies indicate an attraction to violence or gore in real life?

If I have gained nothing else from my bloody weird fainting condition, it is that the answer to every one of these questions is an astoundingly loud “NO”. If my brain thought for even one second on the deepest psychological level that the atrocities I see in films were real, I would pass out. That has never once happened during a movie. No, the brain does not think the visuals are real. There is absolutely no connection, or else I would be on the floor at every press screening.

So suck it to everyone who says horror films are in any way connected to real life carnage on a mental level. This fainting goat of horror just proved you wrong!

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